Mother’s suicide plunges woman into mental health crisis and depression

This story is about suicide. If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, please call US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.

Shortly after Laura Trujillo’s mother took her own life at the age of 66 jumping off the rim of the Grand Canyon, Trujillo contemplated dying the same way.

As depression gripped her following the suicide, she wondered “Why am I here and she isn’t?”

“Her death consumed me, not just as grief, but because it seemed preventable, because I wanted to know if I could have done something different to save her,” Trujillo writes in her new book. “Walking Away from the Rim: A Girl’s Search for Truth and Renewal.”

She set out to learn all she could about her mother’s state of mind and see what she saw in her last moments of life.

When Grand Canyon park rangers helped Trujillo get to the exact spot where her mother jumped in 2012, she felt better, she said.

“In a way, I think I’m glad she saw what she found to be the most beautiful place on Earth,” said Trujillo, 52, who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, TODAY .

“I spoke to one of the rangers who had recovered my mum’s body and he was so kind and caring…it made me feel better that there were people who cared so much about her , even after his death. I wish my mom could see that people who didn’t even know her cared about her.

Trujillo and her daughter, Lucy, spend time at the Grand Canyon in August 2018.
Trujillo and her daughter, Lucy, spend time at the Grand Canyon in August 2018. Courtesy of Kelly Benham French

Trujillo, editor of USA TODAY, recently shared her story for Mental Health Awareness Month in May.

Did you have any clues that your mother wanted to die?

I did not do it.

If everyone closest to my mother – me and my sister, my mother’s mother and sister, and my mother’s good friends – had talked about what we were seeing, we would have been more alarmed. We each saw bits and pieces, but without the rest, we didn’t think it was that bad.

I don’t think anyone really understood the seriousness of it, and I don’t think my mom opened up to everyone that way.

Did you get the answer to the question why your mother committed suicide?

What I really learned is that there are so many reasons. There is usually no single reason why someone committed suicide.

We always want an obvious or simple answer. When I told people my mother killed herself, they often said, “Oh, did she leave a note? – as if the note was going to be the index of everything. But we do know that people usually write the note pretty close to death, and they’re not always in the most stable sanity at that time.

I learned a lot about my mom’s mental health issues and that in times of stress, my mom’s depression was higher, which makes sense. I don’t think there was a straight answer, but I learned that there were a lot of things that she really struggled with throughout her life. I am grateful to him for staying so long.

People often assumed your mother died of cancer when you mentioned her death and you didn’t correct them. Why?

When my mother first died, I had a hard time accepting suicide. I didn’t understand and wasn’t ready for people to ask questions, so sometimes it was easier to just say “thank you for your thoughts” and not talk about it any further.

Mom and daughter explore the Grand Canyon in 1989.
Mom and daughter explore the Grand Canyon in 1989.Courtesy of Laura Trujillo

Can you describe your own mental health crisis after your mother died?

I thought a lot about dying at that time because I was really depressed. I felt that I was a burden on my family, that they would be better off without me. Now, in hindsight, that’s so clearly wrong. It’s such a strange feeling – you can’t understand until you’re in it. When you’re in it, it’s like your brain is lying to you and it’s really hard to see.

When you are in a mental health crisis or feeling really down, you don’t know exactly what it is. You can’t put a name to it. Often you don’t know, “Oh, I feel really bad, but it might go away if I get some help.” You’re just in a state that’s very hard to get out of. That’s where I was.

I feel really lucky to have gone to therapy, worked with a psychiatrist, taken medication, and have a very supportive family and network of friends and probably a bit of luck. That’s how I ended up OK.

Did antidepressants help you?

Yes, I really think they help me. I’m still on them. I had to try two or three at first to see what felt good, but I’m a big believer in some people. Everyone needs something different: some people just need therapy, some people need medication or a combinationso whatever works.

How are you today?

I feel good. I went through something really bad and got through it. And I’m sure I’ll experience something really bad again because that’s how life is – it’s really good and sometimes it’s really awful. I’m like, “That was really awful, and you’re still here. It helped me to know that if something bad happens, it’s temporary. It’s a hard thing to see when you’re in this fog where you can’t see how to get out of it.

“When you’re in a mental health crisis or you’re feeling really down, you don’t really know what it’s about. You can’t put a name to it,” Trujillo said.Courtesy of Amy Spasoff

What is your advice to families affected by suicide? How do you continue?

Sometimes the only advice I have is to keep getting up every morning. I had days when I had to keep looking forward to something: lunch with a friend or dinner with my family. It looks easier than it actually is when you’re there.

What was difficult for me was changing the ratio in my head of how much I thought about how my mother died and how she lived. Much of my brain was consumed early on with how she died. But now I can mostly think about how my mother lived and how wonderful she was.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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